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Feral Swine Removal Demonstration Project

Recently I traveled to New Mexico to meet with APHIS-Wildlife Services’ personnel for a firsthand view of their Feral Swine Removal Demonstration Project that aims to eliminate feral swine from the state.  Feral swine are an invasive species with a population that has grown from approximately 1 million in 17 states in the 1980s to more than 5 million across 38 states today.  If left unchecked, their numbers could exceed 10 million by 2018.  Feral swine carry more than 30 diseases that pose a potential threat to humans, livestock, and wildlife, and the total cost of feral swine damage to U.S. agriculture, livestock facilities, private property, and natural resources is estimated to be $1.5 billion annually.

Wildlife Services’ demonstration project is benefitting from tremendous cooperation with federal, state, tribal, and nongovernmental partners, including the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico Department of Agriculture, New Mexico State Land Office, and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, as well as with the Mescalero Apache Tribe, New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, New Mexico Wool Growers’ Association, affected counties and private land owners, among others.

The project is in its 6th month of operation and to date Wildlife Services has conducted feral swine work on more than 175 New Mexico properties totaling 4.1 million acres of land.  Wildlife Services is using a combination of methods to find and remove feral swine, including the use of surveillance cameras, cage and corral traps, and aerial operations.  The New Mexico project is intended to provide guidance and support for a national program to reduce problems associated with feral swine and where possible eliminate feral swine from targeted states.

A feral hog in a box trap alongside the Pecos River in DeBaca County, New Mexico

A feral hog in a box trap alongside the Pecos River in DeBaca County, New Mexico

An item of interest brought to my attention during the trip was the threat feral swine pose to the lesser prairie-chicken, a species currently being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act.  Feral swine prey on adults and chicks while also damaging critical habitat.  Removal of feral swine may help lesser prairie-chicken populations recover, preventing the need for federal protection and enabling ranchers to operate without additional restrictions.

In closing, I’d like to give a shout out to the Wildlife Service team in New Mexico for their hospitality and dedication to the success of this important demonstration project.

Livestock interacting with feral swine at a feeder in New Mexico.

Livestock interacting with feral swine at a feeder in New Mexico.

13 Responses to “Feral Swine Removal Demonstration Project”

  1. kathy helms says:

    What happens to the feral swine after they are captured? Are they destroyed, or do they get relocated?

  2. Catherine Gibbons says:

    My question is the same as Kathy’s. What happens to these animals once they are trapped? Are they humanely relocated?

  3. keith says:

    They are destroyed. Relocation does not solve the problem. I really can’t believe that someonw would even think that 5 million hogs can be “relocated”! I guess we could have “federal” holding facilites (like with the “feral” horse issue) so we (the taxpayer) can spent 60,000,000 dollars a year feeding “feral” hogs. What a joke!

  4. keith says:

    I do think some thought could be given to the possiblility of capturing these animals…putting them in hog facilities….cleanse them of parisites…feed them out and possibility slaughtering them for human consumption. That would at least capture some of the expense it cost us tax payers to run this program.

  5. TJ says:

    I don’t think there is a cost effective way of eliminating feral hogs without extermination. They are a nuisance animal that causes problems for agriculture/livestock producers and they should be put down…just like raccoons.

  6. Aaron says:

    Feral hogs are fun to hunt and are not bad to eat. Kind of a shame to waste them when the same department that is spending millions on food stamps is also spending millions on eradicating a potential food source.
    I realize they are a significant problem but do have to question why the federal government is going into the hog business, especially on non federal land. A lot of small businesses specialize in this area and can be hired by farmers and ranchers. Why has it become the job of the federal government to become land managers for land owners yet again?
    Although the forest service claims hunting only plays a small role in management I really have to question why so many federal lands have very little if any opportunities provided for people to hunt feral hogs. Hunting is often a good revenue source for the surrounding communities and could relieve some of the burden of management from the federal government. Hunters are also contributing a good chunk of revenue to the federal government through license fees and the Pittman Robertson act each time they purchase a firearm and ammo. One would think hunting feral hogs should be encouraged on federal lands.

  7. Tracy Bowman says:

    I think we need to think of this from an ecological systems perspective. These feral hogs are outcompeting native species and causing population loss, and are disruptive in farms and ranches, thereby contributing to higher food costs. Moreover, these animals are encroaching into urban/surburban settings – my elderly mother went out in her yard in NM to find one roosting in it. That’s dangerous.

    It costs money to track, and capture these animals….but it would cost more money to test and treat for disease and pests.

  8. Hank says:

    In TX, there is a program where folks can bring trapped feral pigs to processing centers where the pigs are inspected by USDA staff, then killed and process for humen consumption.

  9. Jim says:

    One needs to get ones priorities straight. Many responses are well meaning but short sighted. Hogs destroy entire ecosystems that impact countless wildlife species as well as plant species. Feral swine cannot be controlled through hunting. Hunting only makes them more warry and difficult to trap. There is no safe population number of feral hogs only complete elimination. If you have ever seen the damage feral hogs cause to natural areas as well as agriculture you would have no doubts.

  10. Jay says:

    So, why can’t they be eaten like regular hogs?

  11. Jay says:

    So I read the whole story about diseases they carry now I know DUH!

  12. DJ says:

    Well Aaron, The government does this to protect Human Health and Safety. Can contractors do it where it is cost effective to/for those that are being devasted by their destruction.

  13. Annette says:

    As a former Florida gal I have seen feral hogs in action but I have also greatly enjoyed eating them. Their meat is superior to that of feed lot raised hogs so destorying them seems like a great waste of a wonderful food source. Their are farmer in Florida that allow hurting on their land and charge a fair price for the hogs hunted and you are going to get a hog the only question is what size (and sex). However, all can be eaten and like I said they are very good eating.

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